THE BEST FOOD PLOT TREE
THE MOST IMPORTANT TREE IN AMERICAN HISTORY
The American chestnut was the most important food and timber tree species in the Eastern hardwood forest. It was almost completely destroyed by a bark fungus accidentally introduced from the Orient in 1904. Within 40 years, over 30 million acres of chestnut trees were killed from Maine to Georgia and west to the Mississippi. This tragedy was the largest ecological disaster in American history.
The chestnut was an amazingly useful tree: its plentiful high carbohydratee nuts were eaten by natives and European settlers of North America, it was the primary mast crops for game and wildlife, its beautiful, rot-resistant lumber was used for everything from furniture to fence posts, and its tannin used in the tanning industry. The loss of the chestnut, at the time of the Great Depression, had a devastating effect on the people and wildlife of the Appalachian mountains. The economic loss from the chestnut's demise amounted to untold millions of dollars.
THE ORIGINAL FOOD PLOT TREE
The American Chestnut was the primary food source tree for wildlife - deer, bear, turkey, squirrel, and hogs. The chestnut forest could produce 2,000 pounds of mast or more per acre, more carbohydrate than an acre of corn! Chestnuts were the favored food in the fall for game, because the sweet tasting nuts were high in protein, carbohydrate and had no bitter tasting tannins like acorns.
DEER ARE EVOLUTIONARILY PROGRAMMED TO EAT CHESTNUTS!
Chestnuts are chosen by deer over all other nuts because of their taste and nutrition. They are high in carbohydrates (40%), contain up to 10% high quality protein. This provides the critical easily usable energy source over all other available foods during the Rut in the fall. Chestnuts have no bitter-tasting tannin - and a deer's taste buds are 1,000 times as sensitive as humans. Deer prefer White Oak acorns over Red Oaks because they contain less tannin, and this is why deer prefer chestnuts over all acorns.
DEER CHOSE CHESTNUTS 100:1 OVER ACORNS!
In tests performed by Dr. James Kroll "Dr. Deer" at the Whitetail Research Institute in Nacogdoches, TX, Kroll reports: "Even though the wild deer at this location had never seen a chestnut in many generations, they got on the chestnuts within ONLY AN HOUR after we put them out. The deer ate the chestnuts 100:1 over the acorns! Chestnuts are deer's preferred food."
Dr. James Kroll - Chestnuts are Deer's Preferred Food
Huge Bucks eating Chestnuts at Whitetail Research Institute
The sweet taste of chestnuts actually sweetens the meat of the animals that eat it. In Spain, hogs are raised on chestnuts because of the excellent flavored meat it produces - Estremaduran pork is an international delicacy. Venison from chestnut fed deer tastes like corn-fed venison, without the gamey taste of deer that feed on bitter-tasting acorns.
We grow the Dunstan Chestnut, bred by noted plant breeder Dr. Robert Dunstan, because of its disease resistance and heavy annual crops of very large, sweet nuts. Dunstan Chestnuts have been grown for 35 years all over the US, in Zones 5-9 from Maine to Michigan and Illinois and south to Florida, without any trees ever dying from the blight (see Testimonials). In our field tests, deer readily choose chestnuts over acorns, and there are deer feeding in our orchard every night during harvest season.
R. D. Wallace from Chestnut Hill discusses Dunstan Chestnuts
Dunstan Chestnuts grow faster and bear in only 3-5 years (much sooner than oaks which can take 10-20 years), have wide soil adaptability, bear nuts every year (no skipped years like all oak species) and excellent production - up to 2,000+ lbs/acre. Dunstan Chestnuts have been grown successfully by commercial orchardists all over the U.S. for decades.
The biggest problem that orchardists have is that deer eat all of their harvest! One grower in NC was harvesting 10,000 lbs of nuts and harvesting every other day. When he started picking up nuts every day, his harvest jumped to 26,000 lbs! The deer were eating 2/3 of his crop every night! Other orchardists have had to fence 50 acre orchards to keep the deer out. One grower in IL made more money leasing his land to hunters at $1,500/week than he did from harvesting the nuts, until the trees got large enough to bear heavily.
The tree pictured below on the left is 15 years old in NC. The tree on the right was planted on our farm in 1984 and is over 50' tall with excellent timber form:
BETTER THAN OAK TREES
Dunstan Chestnuts are clearly superior as a tree for attracting deer and wildlife, and should be part of every deer management program.
|Dunstan Chestnut||White Oak||Sawtooth (Red) Oak |
|Hybrid with native||Yes||from China|
|Soil type||Wide adaptability||Rich upland||sand-clay loam|
|Growth Rate||10-12' Year 3||3-4' Year 3||4-6' Year 3|
|Years to bear||3-5||20-50||4-6|
|lbs/tree Year 10||10-25||0||10-30|
|Annual Bearing||Every year||Every 4-10 years||Every 2-3 years|
Data adapted from multiple sources, incl. Kirkpatrick and Pekins (2002) in Oak Forest Ecosystems: Ecology and Management for Wildlife, McShea and Healy, Eds, Johns Hopkins Press.